Slated for general release before the end of this year, the diminutive low-end Oracle Database XE (10g Express Edition) currently supports Microsoft Windows and 32-bit Linux.
The software can run on multiprocessor boxes, but only on one processor in a multiprocessor server. It can store up to 4GB of physical user data, while memory usage is limited to only 1GB.
Additionally, end users can only have one instance of Oracle Database XE on any one server, said Willie Hardie, vice president of database product marketing for Oracle, based in Redwood Shores, Calif.
Hardie said the Oracle Database XE Starter Edition is specifically targeted at nascent application developers, students and ISVs who will be charged with building tomorrows applications but may have thought that Oracles database and tools were not a good fit in the past.
"We know there are a lot of developer communities out there building Java, PHP and [Microsoft].NET, Oracle has always supported those developer communities," Hardie said, pointing out Oracles recent announcement of drivers for PHP in arrangement with Zend Corp.
"We also know there are a lot of developers out there—[such as] students still in college—that are more pure developers and maybe less database-aware but are building low-end applications. Those really small organizations or community developers may not have seen Oracle as a choice for them, but maybe Oracle Database XE will change that."
Typically embracing open-source databases and software due to fiscal and licensing flexibility, a number of smaller companies and developers have made offerings from vendors such as MySQL AB more credible over the last few years.
Bowing to growing pressure from these startups, IBM has already released a free version of its DB2 database, while Microsoft will ship "Express," a free version of its SQL Server 2005, in November.
Oracle Database XE is built on the same code as Oracle Database 10g Release 2 and is compatible with Oracles full family of database products, including Oracle Standard Edition and Oracle Enterprise Edition.
Designed to be very developer-friendly, the free database offers a wide range of Oracles programming APIs to support multiple developer communities, and features Oracle HTML DB to push rapid Web application creation and deployment.
The beta version of Oracle Database XE is available at no cost for download from Oracles Technology Network.